Objects are often considered sacred if used for spiritual purposes, such as the worship or service of gods. The property is often ascribed to objects (a "sacred artifact" that is venerated and blessed), or places ("sacred ground").
Although there are similarities between the terms "sacred" and "holy" and they are sometimes used interchangeably, there are subtle differences. "Holiness" is generally the term used in relation to persons and relationship, while "sacredness" is used in relation to objects, places, or happenings. Thus a saint may be considered as holy, but he is not viewed as sacred. However, there are things that are both holy and sacred such as the holy bible.
The English word "holy" dates back to at least the 11th century with the Old English word hālig, an adjective derived from hāl meaning "whole" and used to mean "uninjured, sound, healthy, entire, complete". The Scottish hale ("health, happiness and wholeness") is the most complete modern form of this Old English root. The word "holy" in its modern form appears in Wycliffe's Bible of 1382. In non-specialist contexts, the term "holy" is used in a more general way, to refer to someone or something that is associated with a divine power, such as water used for baptism.
While both words denote something or someone set apart to the worship of God and therefore worthy of respect and in some cases veneration, "holy" (the stronger word) implies an inherent or essential character. Holiness originates in God and is communicated to things, places, times, and persons engaged in His Service. Thus Aquinas Thomas defines "holiness" as that virtue by which a man's mind applies itself and all its acts to God; he ranks it among the infused moral virtues, and identifies it with the virtue of religion, but with this difference that, whereas religion is the virtue whereby one offers God due service in the things which pertain to the Divine service, holiness is the virtue by which one makes all one's acts subservient to God. Thus holiness or sanctity is the outcome of sanctification, that Divine act by which God freely justifies a person, and by which He has claimed them for His own.